There has been a significant breach of privacy at Eastern Health involving about 122 patients. The authority says their records were inappropriately accessed by an employee, who has since been terminated.
CEO Vickie Kaminski says there is zero tolerance of wilfil breaches of patient privacy. All employees sign a confidentiality pledge, and are provided with access to personal health information to perform their duties. She says Eastern Health has identified all the patients who have been impacted by the deliberate breach, and has established a process for contacting the patients directly to advise of the breach. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has also been advised.
Kaminski publicly apologizes to all patients whose privacy has been breached, and assures that the majority of employees take privacy and confidentiality very seriously.
A statement posted to Eastern Health’s web site today reads:
Eastern Health advised today that it is in the process of contacting approximately 122 of its patients whose medical records were inappropriately accessed by an employee of the health authority. The employee has been terminated.
“At Eastern Health, we take our responsibility as custodians of personal health information very seriously,” said Vickie Kaminski, President and CEO of Eastern Health. “As such, when we identify a deliberate breach of patient privacy, we take action to discipline the offending employee. While the severity of the discipline is determined by the seriousness of the breach, there is zero tolerance for willful breaches of patient privacy.”
Eastern Health employees have signed a confidentiality pledge, or an oath of confidentiality, and are provided with access to personal health information to perform their job duties. Eastern Health also undertakes random audits of its employees’ access to patient records, and performs additional audits should a patient file a complaint, or if patients have become broadly known in the community as being patients of Eastern Health. In addition, Eastern Health has provided privacy education and awareness activities, including facilitating an annual Privacy Awareness Week, and routinely sends reminders to its employees of their obligation to help ensure that they protect the privacy of patients, clients and residents. Privacy at Eastern Health will also be further enhanced through new electronic auditing software that is in the process of being installed, which will automate the auditing process, and make it faster and easier to identify inappropriate access to personal health information.
Eastern Health has identified all the patients who have been impacted by the deliberate breach, and has established a process for contacting the patients directly to advise of the breach. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has also been advised of the breach.
“On behalf of Eastern Health, I want to publicly apologize to all of the patients whose privacy has been breached,” said Ms. Kaminski. “It is quite disheartening when these breaches occur. However, it is my belief that the majority of employees take privacy and confidentiality very seriously.”
Eastern Health is committed to continue protecting the privacy and confidentiality of the health information of its patients, clients and residents, and holds its responsibility as a custodian of personal health information in the highest regard.
So after all that, there’s no statement as to the motivation behind the deliberate breach. Were these patients known to the employee? Were there other motives? Were any of the data manually copied? Eastern Health did not respond to an email inquiry I sent them yesterday seeking information on this.
Update: Eastern Health has not responded to my inquiry, but another media source reports that the files were those of people the nurse knew.